by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 476 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
How would you rate episode 477 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
The series' two principal characters have their long-awaited rematch in this week's double helping of Naruto Shippūden. In light of how much filler we've had to sit through to get to this point, it's understandable that fans had very high hopes for this particular brawl—and these episodes don't disappoint. While the pitch-perfect execution of this battle-to-end-all-battles doesn't necessarily excuse the punishingly slow pacing and copious helpings of filler that have plagued this show for the last two years, these episodes are sure to make many viewers feel vindicated in sticking with the series through its lengthiest rough patch to date.
Wishing to follow in Itachi's footsteps, Sasuke reasons that the Hokage shouldn't be a ninja that's acknowledged by the entire village, but rather a figure that accepts the collective hatred of the shinobi world. Sure, all the Hidden Villages set aside their differences to form a united front against Madara's machinations, but now that he and Kaguya are gone, they're bound to return to their usual feuding. However, since Sasuke now possesses the knowledge to make himself immortal, he intends to permanently unite the shinobi world by acting as an eternal common enemy—just as soon as he dispatches Naruto, his only remaining friend.
What follows is arguably the most impressive action sequence found in any piece of Naruto media. Throughout the ensuing battle, the boys utilize every technique they've acquired throughout the series, as well as a few new ones, in their attempts to take each other down. Ever the peacemaker, Naruto exercises a bit of restraint, as his goal isn't to kill Sasuke. Sasuke, however, doesn't make any bones about wanting to permanently put his eternal frenemy out of commission. Despite both combatants' best efforts, neither one is able to completely best the other. Even after depleting their respective chakra supplies, the boys continue to pummel one another with good old fashioned taijutsu. After Naruto receives a small boost of concentrated chakra from Kurama (and Sasuke steals a portion of it), the rivals-turned-friends charge at one another with their signature attacks—Naruto with his Rasengan, Sasuke with his Chidori—as the episode ends with a flash of super-powered lightning.
I'm hard-pressed to remember the last time I was this impressed with one of the show's action sequences. For the longest time, Naruto and Sasuke's brawl at the end of the Sasuke Retrieval Arc was the standard upon which fights were judged, but provided the show continues past the manga's conclusion (and all signs suggest this will be the case), this is sure to serve as the new standard. Strangely, the most emotionally resonant part of this battle is seeing the boys engaged in fisticuffs without relying on any chakra. It's a downright brutal fight, far more painful to watch than what came before. Blood spurts, teeth fly, and toward the end, neither Naruto or Sasuke can even stand. This eventually leads Naruto to the realization that he can't talk Sasuke out of killing him—at least, not with words.
The visuals are spot-on, the animation is feature film caliber, and the soundtrack perfectly accentuates the mood—from the fast-paced rock tracks played during the first stage of the fight to the subdued, melancholy instrumental used after the boys have exhausted their strength. Naruto and Sasuke's pre-fight exchange drags on a little too long and feels like a retread of their philosophical debate from episode 475, but the pacing in this week's episodes is near perfect.
While I think that his worldview holds a bit of merit, Sasuke has become so thoroughly unlikable at this point that part of me wanted to see Naruto stop pulling his punches. Despite all the world-shaking action, this is supposed to be a large-scale family disagreement between adoptive brothers, and I'd really like to view it as such. However, Sasuke's bizarre insistence on wiping out his lingering ties to his old life (i.e., Naruto) makes the whole ordeal feel more like a black-and-white “good guy vs. bad guy” situation. Suffice to say, Naruto's punches land more satisfyingly for the viewer than Sasuke's.
It's no secret that Naruto Shippūden—and long-form shonen anime in general—loves to pad. As such, I was fully expecting this highly-anticipated fight to unfold at a much slower pace, with frustrating lulls in the action and awkwardly-inserted flashbacks aplenty. Fortunately, for the first time in a long while, Naruto Shippūden surprised me in a good way. The cliffhanger ending is a bit disappointing, but it does little to diminish two of this series' finest episodes.
Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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